According to a recent report, a U.K. team found the genetic underpinnings of our cravings for high-calorie foods. In other words, we prefer sugar- and fat-laden foods because our brains are hardwired to do so.
This may be why some people easily say no thank you to that extra chocolate bar while others find it simply irresistible.
Dr. Tony Goldstone, lead author of the study and researcher with Imperial College London in the United Kingdom, said that his team found a pair of genetic variants that influences our preference for high-calorie menus.
The findings may help researchers design more personalized weight loss plans especially for obese patients.
In the U.S. alone, 78.6 million people were diagnosed with obesity. Yet, obesity is linked to a plethora of health problems including higher risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer.
Past research found that processed high-calorie foods fuel obesity epidemic worldwide since the excess calories we get from food is stored as fat or glycogen for later use. Moreover, healthy diets plus physical exercise are often recommended as certain ways of losing the extra pounds. Yet, sticking to a diet is nearly impossible to some people.
So, Dr. Goldstone’s team planned to learn whether there are some hidden reasons that may prevent some people from committing to a healthy meal plan. In their study, the research team analyzed the DNA of 45 people aged 19-55 years.
Researchers focused on two genes that were long-known as causes of weight gain: the FTO gene, which was often tied to weight gain, and the DRD2, which controls dopamine levels in the brain and the way we respond to rewards and food cravings.
Study participants were also asked to take a look at images of high-calorie items and report how appealing those foods were. In the meantime, researchers analyzed brain activity in participants while replying to the questionnaire.
The study revealed that a FTO variant was tied to a preference for high-calorie food items and greater brain activity in the orbitofrontal cortex. Those participants also displayed greater activity in the stratium, a region of the brain influenced by the DRD2 gene.
Researchers concluded that people with the FTO variant may feel more tempted to eat unhealthy foods because their brains’ dopamine signals simply kick in in the presence of such foods.
Dr. Goldstone explained that the findings may explain why some people experience more cravings for sugar- and fat-laden foods than the average person.
Image Source: Sculptingfearlessness
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